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What’s Worse Than Politics Without Religion? Politicized Religion. – New York Magazine

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Who were these people really worshiping on January 6?
Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As evidence of the decline of religious observance in American continues to mount even as cultural and political divisions become more intense and pervasive, a very old fear has arisen again. It is that in a thoroughly secularized society politics will begin to take on some of the absolutist features normally associated with religious claims of possessing ultimate truth.

For many years analysts have wondered if the savage nature of totalitarian movements of the left and right was owed to their occupation of metaphysical ground once held by supernatural religion. And there’s no question that both the classless, stateless society imagined by Marx as waiting for the human race at the end of history, and the Aryan Valhalla dreamed of by the Nazis for their own “master race,” were in appeal if not intention secular replicas of the Kingdom of God.

So it’s not surprising that Andrew Sullivan, in an Easter essay that begins with an insightful and moving tribute to his own inveterate Catholicism, enters the same dark woods of fear about politics raised to the level of religion:

[Religion] is about removing oneself from life while still living it: a pause, a grace-note, a moment when nothing is getting done. It is good to get out of the addled brain for a while, to live in the soul and the body alone. …

What we’re witnessing, it seems to me, is not a collapse in the religious impulse as such. The need to transcend, to find meaning, and purpose, is eternal for humans. What we’re witnessing is what happens when politics replaces or becomes a form of religion.

But out of apparent exasperation with all sorts of misplaced absolutes, Sullivan sets up an equivalence with which I cannot agree:

The fusion of evangelical Christianity with the Republican party blasphemously climaxed in the Trump cult. Among the Trump banners and a Confederate flags in the crowd that invaded the Capitol on January 6 was a flurry of wooden crosses. And in wokeness, the younger generation are quite obviously replicating previous religious movements in America. Look at the zeal in their eyes, the relentless search for heresy, the ostracization of sinners, the mass confessions of iniquity, and the need to ‘do the work’ every day to bring about the Kingdom of Anti-Racism.

Yes, secular progressive causes from “wokeness” to public health to voting rights are fed by inherent human longings for self-improvement, righteousness, solidarity and, well, progress itself. There are over-zealous and censorious social justice advocates just as there are over-zealous librarians who are censorious about noise and over-zealous chefs who are censorious about nutrition and table-scapes (though the collateral damage to their “victims” is obviously more innocent). Perhaps the “woke” are filling holes in their souls once filled by faith, and are engaged in crusades that lead to campus warfare rather than to Jerusalem. But by and large they do not profess that their certainties came down from heaven on tablets of stone, or that by smiting their enemies hip and thigh they are saving their souls. And that matters.

What has been most dangerous about the Christian Right before and after it succumbed to the “Trump cult” was that its prophets had so thoroughly confused the sacred and the profane that it made a habit of deifying mere secular concerns. I once had rural relatives who refused to observe daylight savings time because standard time was “God’s time.” Anything traditional was hallowed. And in the Church of the Day Before Yesterday, the cultural mores of 1950s middle-class America displaced the Christian gospel, making “family values” — meaning Dad as patriarch and Mom as reproductive vessel and homemaker and in general women and gay people and minorities quiet and knowing their place — the keys to the Kingdom. That the whole movement culminated in celebration of the Ur-heathen Donald Trump as national savior showed how perverse the whole enterprise had become.

So give me a thousand “woke” young militants over a single man in a pulpit proclaiming anyone’s — much less Trump’s — reelection as essential to the salvation of the human race. For that matter, I’d much prefer grim and censorious secularists to any Christian Left that would sanctify political goals I happen to share. Politicized religion can spoil both politics and religion, which is why the American tradition of separation of church and state is so essential to religious as well as civic freedom. As Sullivan rightly says: “It took centuries for Christianity to … reject earthly power as a distraction from what really matters, what really lasts. It would be a terrible shame if America threw that shimmering inheritance away.”

This Easter I am worshipping my risen Lord and Savior with not a bit of resentment of those who find meaning in secular pursuits or in the watery spirituality of the 21st century. I will even endeavor to maintain fellowship with Christians who seem to worship an angry God and look forward to a paradise that bears a great resemblance to a gated retirement community in Florida. And I will pray that even if our differences grow more bitter and unforgiving, we will never confuse culture war with holy war, or elections with the Eschaton.

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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